On Friday, Royal Caribbean Cruises announced that it will begin cruising from Nassau. Starting on June 12th, Royal Caribbean will sail its Adventure of the Seas on seven-night cruises from the cruise ship’s new home port in the Bahamas. The cruise line also announced that its sister company, Celebrity Cruises, will start sailing the Celebrity Millennium cruise ship on week-long cruises from St. Maarten on June 5th.

The Miami Herald explains that the Adventure of the Seas (photo above) will stop at Royal Caribbean’s private island CoCo Cay (photo right) in the Bahamas, as well as Grand Bahama Island and Cozumel, Mexico. The Celebrity Millennium cruises will visit Aruba, Curaçao and Barbados on one itinerary and Tortola, St. Lucia and Barbados on another.

Vaccinated Adults / Un-Vaccinated Children

For all such cruises, crew members and passengers older than 18 will be required to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Minors, however, will be permitted to sail without a vaccine provided that they submit proof of a negative COVID-19 test result within 72 hours of boarding.

Frustrated with the CDC

Royal Caribbean’s announcement that it intends to resume cruising from these new home ports in the Caribbean reflects its frustration with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) whose orders directly affect only cruise ships sailing from U.S. ports. The CDC announced last October that cruise lines sailing from U.S. ports must comply with the conditions set forth in the CDC’s conditional sail order.

The first part of the order requires cruise companies to test crew members for COVID-19 weekly and report the results to the CDC. However, there are still companies with ships in U.S. waters which have not complied with this part of the order, a CDC representative CDC spokesperson told the Miami Herald. After this is completed, cruise lines must then obtain agreements with local health authorities and port authorities to arrange for housing and medical treatment for those crew members and passengers who become infected during cruises.

“I think we’re increasingly anxious and a little impatient waiting for (CDC) guidance,” Royal Caribbean International President Michael Bayley told the Washington Post in an interview last Friday. Royal Caribbean’s frustration with not being able to sail its ships without CDC restrictions has led to it deciding to resume cruising in jurisdictions where it can basically do as it pleases, such as St. Martin and the Bahamas. This permits the company to substitute its thought process for that of the CDC regarding such things as the wearing of masks, social distancing and the capacity of its ships, among other issues.  The Miami Herald reports that Royal Caribbean “is still determining whether it will require crew and passengers to wear masks and how full the ships will be.”

Will Royal Caribbean Still Follow Its Healthy Sail Panel Recommendations?

Royal Caribbean has invested in COVID-19 protocols which are found in a comprehensive report prepared by its so-called Healthy Sail Panel. As reported by USA Today last September, Royal Caribbean said that it’s also Healthy Sail Panel recommendations would including face coverings and other protocols. But there is no indication that the company will follow these protocols on cruises that do not leave from or call on a U.S. port.

This sets up a potentially disastrous situation where Royal Caribbean may subsequently not require its crew or passengers to wear masks, which polls indicate are unpopular with guests. Of course, COVID-19 vaccinations do not mean that the crew members or passengers cannot be infected or transmit the virus. The CDC requires the wearing of masks on all forms of transportation, whether involving a train, plane or ship, including all transportation hubs.

The fact that Royal Caribbean is permitting minors to cruise only on a showing of a negative COVID-19 tests within three days of cruising is also potentially dangerous.  As cruising outside of the U.S. has revealed, coronavirus tests can yield false results and/or there is always the risk of infection after the test while traveling in public spaces to the cruise terminal. There is a risk of a minor becoming infected after he is tested while flying to the Caribbean port. To the extent that the passenger is tested after arriving in Nassau, that test may not pick up recent infections and there also remains a chance of infection while in the terminal en route to the cruise ship.

Several Millions of Children Have Been Infected with COVID-19 in the U.S.

COVID-19 infection is children is a very real phenomenon that is not often discussed by the major media outlets. The American Academy of Pediatrics has compiled detailed data which indicates that there have been 3,284,531 child COVID-19 cases reported in the U.S., comprising 13.2% of the 24,806,402 cases in the U.S. to date.  There have been several hundred deaths of children due to COVID-19, as the data shows.

Children who cruise will undoubtedly interact with other unvaccinated children, as well as with vaccinated adults who can still transmit the virus, while traveling through airports and on planes to the Caribbean and on the cruise itself. This is a recipe for infection.

There is also no indication whether the cruise guests will be barred from going ashore on excursions, thereby increasing their own risk of infection as well potentially exposing the citizens in the port communities. There are no such restrictions mentioned in Royal Caribbean’s on-line advertisements.

Few Vaccinations in the Bahamas and Mexico

The Bahamas vaccination rate is extremely low with less than one (1) percent of Bahamians vaccinated to date. Mexico’s vaccination rate is also very low with less than four (4) percent of its citizens vaccinated. There have been at least 2,193,600 cases of the coronavirus in Mexico with 197,827 people dead due to the virus, according to the New York Times.

Sending children, who are unvaccinated, into these countries with such low vaccination rates is utter folly. Royal Caribbean is asking the public to ignore the CDC’s recommendation that “all people avoid travel on cruise ships,” notwithstanding the agency’s jurisdiction over air carriers flying from and to U.S. cities.

No Local COVID-19 Infections in Singapore

The Points Guy interviewed Royal Caribbean’s senior vice president of hotel operations, Mark Tamis, about the fact that the company was skirting the CDC’s jurisdiction by resuming its U.S. cruise operations from ports in the Caribbean. Tamis coyly wouldn’t say “if the agency approved of the move.”

Tamis touted Royal Caribbean’s success in cruising from Singapore, but this could not be a more misleading comparison. Singapore currently has virtually no local coronavirus cases (with only a dozen or so imported cases). It has the world’s lowest COVID-19 mortality rate of only 30 deaths for the past year of its over 5,700,000 inhabitants due to its excellent mask culture, compared to over 542,000 deaths of U.S. citizens with nearly 30,000,000 infected in the U.S. over the last year.

No Boarding or Medical Arrangements Made So Far – Who Will Pay the Costs When a Passenger Become Infected?

By establishing home ports in St. Martin and the Bahamas, Royal Caribbean is able to avoid the CDC’s requirement that cruise lines make pre-arrangements to house those cruise guests who become infected with facilities ashore to provide housing and medical treatment. It is unclear what, if any, arrangements Royal Caribbean has made if and when a guest become ill during a cruise from St. Martin or the Bahamas. If a child or other passenger becomes symptomatic while the ship is in Bahamian waters, where will Royal Caribbean quarantine the passenger and his close contacts? Where will the guests be quarantined when the ship is sailing to Mexico? I can not think of any other country less likely to provide quality medical treatment than these two countries, no matter how gracious their citizens may be. And who will pay for the accommodations and the cost of medical treatment as well as the costs of flying home?  If left to its own devices, Royal Caribbean will likely pass these costs on to its guests.

Cruising From Nassau – Increased Costs and Risk of Infection

A reader of this blog send me the link to Royal Caribbean’s announcement of these cruises on its so-called Volunteers of the Seas Facebook page, which struck me as disturbing. This comment from a Royal Caribbean fan of the page is perhaps most insightful:
“This is the most ridiculous thing I have heard of! Can’t wait to see the prices for this…pay for a flight to Bahamas just to cruise through and around the bahamas pay for coco cay, fly on a plane with unvaccinated people and cruise with children unvaccinated while still able to contract the virus and spread it. Then find out you did contract it from either plane or child and not be sick at all but have to have a covid test before fly home and then get stuck in the bahamas until you can prove a negative covid test! I’ll just take a regular vacation thanks!”

The fact that Royal Caribbean decided to resume its U.S. cruising from ports in the Caribbean aligns perfectly with its basic business model. It incorporated in Liberia (Africa) and registered its ships in the Bahamas in order to avoid all U.S. income taxes, U.S. labor and wage laws, U.S. occupational health and safety laws, and U.S. environmental protections. Dodging science-based health and safety restrictions by the CDC is just more business as usual by this Liberian corporation.

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Image credit: Adventure of the Seas – Master0Garfield CC BY-SA 4.0, wikipedia / commons; CoCo Cay – Royal Caribbean.